Herbal Supplements

Peer Reviewed

Fresh aloe veraAloe comes from the aloe vera plant, a perennial characterized by long spear-like leaves. The plant may grow to a height of four feet. Aloe, a clear thick gel-like substance, flows from the inside of cut leaves. The leaves also produce a bitter yellow juice found between the aloe gel and the leaf's outer skin. When this yellow juice is dried it becomes aloe latex.

Aloe can be used externally and internally.

  • The aloe gel can be used topically to help control pain and inflammation from minor cuts and burns, hives, and poison ivy. The gel can be applied liberally directly from a cut leaf. Some people keep an aloe vera plant in their home. Additionally, aloe stimulates skin repair and healing. It is often used as a skin healer and moisturizer.
  • Aloe juice is the liquid form of aloe vera that is taken internally. This juice is used to treat stomach disorders, ulcers, constipation, hemorrhoids, colitis and rectal itching. Due to its antibacterial properties, aloe juice is used to treat gastrointestinal infections.

Aloe latex is a powerful laxative that may cause painful cramping. Therefore, it is seldom used.

Sources of Aloe
Aloe gel comes directly from the plant’s leaves. However, aloe gel is also available commercially in a stabilized form (bottle). Aloe juice is simply the liquid form of the gel. Aloe latex can be found in capsule or powdered form for use as a laxative.

Guidelines and Cautions
In general, aloe gel is safe for external use. If an allergic reaction occurs or irritation, discontinue use immediately. Aloe gel should not be used for deep cuts or serious abrasions. Those types of injuries require medical attention.

Aloe latex should be used carefully, if at all. When taken over a prolonged period, dependence may result. Chronic use may cause an electrolyte imbalance or potassium deficiency. If you are taking heart medication or diuretics, consult a medical professional prior to use.

Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take aloe latex. Miscarriage may occur. Also, this substance may worsen gastrointestinal problems.

Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.

Updated on: 03/22/16
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Nutritional Supplements to Build Bone and Help Prevent Osteoporosis
Mark R. McLaughlin, MD
While I have had some patients that describe improvement of their symptoms from various dietary supplements, there is little scientific evidence that they work. In small amounts, I do not believe they are harmful, but I am not convinced they are any more effective than adhering to a healthy, well-balanced diet. On the contrary, there is strong scientific evidence showing that patients with a poor overall nutritional status have higher complication rates from surgery.
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Nutritional Supplements to Build Bone and Help Prevent Osteoporosis

A lack of certain minerals and vitamins play a role in the onset of osteoporosis. Adopt a healthy lifestyle to maintain sufficient levels of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals to keep bones healthy and strong.
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